Court puts hold on Judgment over Melaye’s senatorial election

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The Nigerian Appeal court in Abuja on Tuesday has reserved judgment in three separate appeals filed by Dino Melaye regarding the ruling of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.

The appeals were filled by the independent Electoral Commission (INEC), people’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the lawmaker. They prayed the appellate court would set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which affected the election of Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District.

Justice Datti Yahaya, who preceded over the three appeals announced that the parties would be informed when a date for the judgment has been fixed.

Jubrin Okutepa, who is the PDP representative in his final argument prayed the appellate court would put aside the majority decision of the tribunal against Mr. Melaye on the ground of denial of fair hearing and refusal to evaluate evidence adduced during the hearing.

According to the party, the tribunal had failed to evaluate the testimonies of its witnesses while no reference was made to all the documentary evidence it supplied before the tribunal came to a wrong conclusion of over-voting, even after the petitioner did not tender any voter register.

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The party also claimed that the Tribunal turned the head of natural justice upside down when it based over-voting used in cancelling the senatorial election on the number of collected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) rather than voter register as required by law.

The second appeal which was filled by INEC, who was represented by Kola Olowookere, he urged the Appeal court to dismiss the allegation of mutilation of election result and favoring a particular candidate as alleged by the petitioner, Senator Smart Adeyemi and the (APC) All Peoples Congress. The electoral body said the finding of over voting by the Tribunal was wrong because the voter registered and result of election in 2015 tallied with the result in the disputed area. On this ground, INEC pleaded asked for the appeal to be allowed.

The third appeal which was filled by Dino Melaye and urged by Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), they urged the Appeal court to set aside the over-voting decision of the Tribunal because it was based on hearsay instead of results by polling units’ agents. Attention was drawn to the fact that only three witnesses were called, adding that the evidence of the three witnesses based on hearsay cannot justify the cancellation of the senatorial election. Melaye also stated that mutilation of result sheet was untenable because the final result of the senatorial election was endorsed by agents of the candidates and the parties, and that the petitioners failed to establish that the alleged mutilated result substantially affected the final result collation.

The APC opposed the arguments of the appellants and also made a plea with the appellate court to dismiss the three appeals because appellants were not denied fair hearing and that the tribunal based its findings on over voting on the report of INEC which comprehensively contained the number of collected voter cards unit by unit.

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